Matthew Norman: Ye of little faith, hark the voice of the Vatican

Diary

If there's a finer and more fearless organ than L'Osservatore Romano anywhere on the planet today, I'd love to know what it is.

Mischievously described as the "semi-official" newspaper of the Vatican – a slur similar to slandering the Daily Mirror (see below) as the semi-official newspaper of No 10 – it flourishes under editor-in-chief Giovanni Maria Vian. His leader dismissing as malevolent conspiracy theorising the current nonsense about Hitler Youth pontiff Benedict XVI – real name: Joseph Ratzinger – is a classic.

As his leader makes plain, the charge of cover up has been all got up by the press, and is "clearly an ignoble attempt to strike at Pope Benedict at any cost". Yet the masterstroke here lay in Signor Vian's skilful pre-emption last June of any criticism now that his paper trivialises allegations of the kind. "No accusation, however serious or shameful," L'Osservatore's Michael Jackson eulogy put it, "is enough to tarnish his myth among his millions of fans ..." What cleverness to seize that chance, in the midst of an unending but ever worsening scandal, to ridicule the notion that the Vatican takes an atypically liberal approach to paedophilia. When Vian took the job in 2007, the Pope welcomed him with an open letter. "As I invoke the mother protection of Mary Most Holy," wrote Benedict 16, "I gladly impart my blessing to everyone as a pledge of abundant heavenly favours." Abundant earthly favours aren't so bad either, and you cannot put a price on editorial independence.

Red Kev

Which brings us to the Mirror, where the commitment to keeping Downing Street at arm's length dwarfs L'Osservatore's freedom from Vatican influence. Let's state as certain fact the following: there is no truth in the gossip, spread by more of those pesky conspiracy theorists, that political supremo Kevin Maguire, pictured, has applied for deed poll and intends, just to avoid confusing the readership, to change his name to Charlie Whelan. Regardless of the rumour, these two are separate entities and have been often seen in the same room ... the time, for example, Kevin attended a meeting (in a purely private capacity) at Charlie's Unite office, joining Damian McBride and others to debate how best to spread misinformation about Tory Toffs and their silver-spooned spouses. Not another word about the paper being Gordon Brown's house bulletin, if you please, for a very long time.

It's 'The Sun' wot blew it

Barely less impressive in analysing the Budget's implications, albeit from a marginally altered perspective, was The Sun, where cerebral editor Dominic Mohan struggles to learn a lesson. Perhaps the problem is distance. Wapping sources report that Dominic has taken to editing by video conference from his newly leased Oxfordshire cottage, 2.7mm to the north of David Cameron's colon. Whatever the reason, Dom still hasn't grasped that dementedly one-sided political coverage usually helps the intended victim. The start of Labour's partial recovery, for instance, can be dated to Dominic's hysterical attack on Gordon Brown's poor spelling in that letter to a bereaved military mother. If the PM should somehow hold on to power, it will be a toss up as to which of Kevin and Dominic deserves the knighthood more.

Yes she can

I haven't the strength to dwell on Melanie Phillips this week, so suffice it that on her blog she continues to compare Obama to Hitler (the latest elegance being to paint Israel as Czechoslovakia in 1939). More, perhaps, next week as the diplomatic tension tests her fabled self-control further. As for those of you who have asked whether Mad Mel really did use the phrase "final solution" regarding US policy towards Israel, yes she did.

Go Gaunty!

On an otherwise hideous Press Awards night for The Sun, which (along with The Times) was cruelly reminded that it was offered the MPs' expenses data before The Daily Telegraph but didn't fancy it, thank God for Gaunty! SunTalk's receipt of the digital innovation prize was richly deserved. A radio station without listeners...does it get any more innovative than that?

Cruellest cuts

And so to the Mirror's sparkling budget coverage, the highlight of which came even before Alistair Darling's speech. Once again Kevin takes the laurels for Cam's Just A Spitting Image Of Thatcher, published on the morning of the Budget. Coming the day before Darling conceded that any spending cuts of his would be "tougher and deeper" than Thatcher's ever were ... magnificent stuff. So was the little box in Kevin's column praising Liam Byrne – the surest-footed cabinet media performer, on current form. The Treasury Chief Secretary bathed in this adulation for a day, before confirming on BBC One's Question Time that any future Labour cuts will make Thatcher seem cuddly. In political writing, as with stand-up comedy, timing is all.

Hello!

A warm welcome to our new Russian owners – does anyone know the correct cyrillic lettering for “sycophancy”?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
footballLive! Chelsea vs West Ham kicked off 10 Boxing Day matches, with Arsenal vs QPR closing the action
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Brand Marketing Manager - Essex - £45,000 + £5000 car allowance

£40000 - £45000 per annum + car allowance: Ashdown Group: Senior Brand Manager...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer /.NET Software Developer

£26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a .NET Developer /.NET Software ...

Guru Careers: Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing Exec (SEO / PPC)

£18 - 24k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Marketing Analyst / Online Marketing...

Guru Careers: Technical Operations Manager

£Neg. (DOE) + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Technical Ope...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all